Letter From Milo: Freaky Joe

October 22nd, 2018
As I mentioned in a few earlier posts, I am a veteran of the war in Vietnam. It was an ugly meat grinder of a war, fought for the wrong reasons, against the wrong people, and, predictably, it all went terribly wrong. I’m not smart enough to explain the the political, ethical or fiduciary reasons for the war, I’d just like to relate a few odd incidents that you might find interesting.

 

Incident #1
We had a 2nd Lieutenant, let’s call him Lt. Smith, who served as my platoon leader for several months. He seemed to be a nice enough guy, considerate of his men, easy to talk to and not too eager to cover himself in glory. He was an educated man, with a degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and when we had some downtime he would usually spend it reading paperback books. He seemed like a completely normal guy.

 

If Lt. Smith had a quirk it was that he was madly in love with his college girlfriend. Whenever I talked to him the discussion would invariably turn to the love of his life. He carried a photo album of her and would whip it out at the slightest sign of interest. The photos depicted an attractive young woman in a variety of settings, on campus, at the beach, on the ski slopes.

 

“Beautiful, isn’t she?” Lt. Smith would always ask me, after showing me her latest pictures.

 

“Yeah, she’s a real looker.”

 

“We’re going to get married when I get back to the world.”

 

“That’s great, sir.”

 

“We were going to get married before I came in-country, but I thought it best we wait, just in case.”

 

“That’s real sound thinking, sir.”

 

One day Lt. Smith got a letter from his beloved, which contained a couple of more photos and mentioned that she and a few girlfriends were going to spend the weekend in upstate New York attending an outdoor music festival. As it turned out, the festival was Woodstock.

 

Just to remind those of you whose memories are shot, whose brain cells are fried, or who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, Woodstock was the blow-out party of the 20th Century. It was a life-changing event for many people, changing their attitudes, redefining their reasons for existence and altering the trajectory of their lives. Apparently, Lt. Smith’s girlfriend was one of the people who went to Woodstock and never looked back. Lt. Smith, who used to get a letter from his girlfriend every other day, never heard from her again, at least while he was in Vietnam. I doubt I’ve ever seen a sadder or more forlorn man.

 

Incident #2
Packages from home were always a welcome treat. We called them “Care Packages” and they usually came from parents, grandparents, wives or girlfriends. The packages contained everything from homemade cookies to bottles of whiskey, porn magazines to editions of hometown newspapers. My father once sent me a wicked-looking Buck knife with a fine leather sheath. I lost it a couple of months after it arrived.

 

There was a guy – let’s call him Freaky Joe – who received a package from his girlfriend that contained a DayGlo paint set. Readers of a certain age will remember that DayGlo paints were all the rage for a time, especially with the psychedelic set. The paints glowed in the dark and were used for decorating t-shirts, making posters and face painting. I knew a guy in college who liked to get stoned, use Day-Glo paint to paint all of his teeth different colors and then go out at night and smile at people.

 

Anyway, Freaky Joe spent one afternoon smoking reefer and painting a Claymore mine with his newly-arrived paint set. A Claymore mine is a plastic shell filled with C-4 explosives and packed with hundreds of BBs or ball bearings. It was attached to a 50-yard-long cord that had a manually activated detonating device at its terminus. When the device was set off, the Claymore exploded with devastating power, shredding everything in its range.

 

Freaky Joe was sitting with a goofy smile on his face, a Claymore in his lap, painting stars, half moons, polka dots and stick figures all over the mine’s outer shell. When asked what he was doing, Freaky Joe replied, “Just fucking around.”

 

That night Freaky Joe’s squad went out on night ambush. This was an exercise where a squad of eight men went out in the evening and set up an ambush along a well-traveled trail. Anybody who came walking by was in trouble. To be fair, the other side did the same thing.

 

Freaky Joe had his own idea of how to run a night ambush. He hung the painted Claymore mine in a tree, about head high. Then he went off about 40 yards, found a good place to hide, and , using his night vision goggles, waited for some poor soul to come by.

 

A while later, a lone Vietnamese came strolling along. He might have been an NVA regular, a Viet Cong or just a luckless farmer. The man saw something odd hanging in a tree, something unexplainable. It was a group of stars, half moons, stripes and stick figures, all twinkling and glowing in the dark. His curiosity obviously piqued, the man walked up to the glowing vision and pressed his face close to see what it was. At that point Freaky Joe activated the Claymore and blew the man’s head off.

 

“Curiosity killed the gook,” Freaky Joe said. The boys got a lot of laughs out of that one.

 

Incident #3
Every couple of months my company would be taken out of the field and taken back to Division Headquarters in Chu Lai for three days of rest and relaxation that was known as “standdown.” There was plenty of relaxation but very little rest. It was basically a three-day beer bust, with lots of reefer and opium to grease the skids.

 

One of the best things about standdown was that Division HQ provided live entertainment, in the form of rock, country or R&B bands. The bands were generally from Australia, South Korea or the Philippines. I don’t remember if they were any good, but they were always fronted by attractive female singers.

 

One of the rumors going around was that these singers also doubled as whores. We had just finished watching a performance by an Australian group that featured three very good looking singers. They played mostly Motown stuff and did a credible imitation of the Supremes. When the show was over, I huddled with a guy named Duffy and a 2nd Lieutenant, whom I’ll call Bruce Diksas to spare him any undue embarrassment. We decided to take a shot at the the Aussie Supremes.

 

Lt. Diksas, being an officer and a gentleman, was able to commandeer the company jeep. Then he, Duffy and I went in search of the women.

 

“Oh, man, round-eyed women.”

 

“Yeah, and two of them are blondes.”

 

“Shit, man, I haven’t seen a blonde in eight months.”

 

“Did you bring the weed?”

 

“Brought a bottle, too.”

 

“Oh, man, this is gonna be great.”

 

“Fucking blondes, can you believe it?”
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No Blaise: A Dollar Today

October 22nd, 2018

One dollar essentially means nothing in 2017.

Is $1 you-call-it a thing on college campuses anymore? It definitely shouldn’t be, but it’d be sad if a very dangerous drink deal were to go extinct because of inflation, as opposed to it’s demise for a more appropriate reason like binge drinking is bad.

But I digress.

There are a few places in this expensive era that still honor the almighty dollar. One of those places is a local business you may have heard of, it’s called Target.

Target, if you’ve been there, has many many things to buy. Often times it has too many things to buy and a lot of times I buy a lot of those things. This problem has only increased since becoming a teacher and uncovering the jackpot that is their $1 section.

Targets dollar section has so many things, and all of the things cost $1, and all of the things go into my classes prize bin. Every Thursday I walk into the Target dollar section to re-up because Friday is a big prize day for us in first grade. Friday morning I walk in and put the new prizes into the prize bin as the kids eat their breakfast. When I’m done, I remind the kids that any of those prizes can be theirs as long as they have a good day and follow the rules.

Carrot, meet stick.

Last Thursday, I had a particularly good haul. The dollar section got a full revamp, they’d updated for summer. They had light up bracelets, flashlights on necklaces, sunglasses, and lots of things with a hamburger/hotdog/french fry print that I very much enjoyed. So, I walked into the class on Friday morning like I was on stage at the Oscar’s and about to read the winner of Best Actress.

We get excited about the little things in first grade.

I filled the prize bin with all the light up and fast food printed items and looked upon my kingdom of little people as if I’d just won them all the gold in the world. Being the perfect students they are, they reacted as if I was a queen and had just brought them back all the gold in the world. I have taught them so much.

I should give a brief disclaimer that I buy things from the dollar section for myself as well. They have many things you can convince yourself you’d use or just things that are pretty or cool to look at. We all need prize bins, you know?

This blog should be looked at as a PSA. If you’re a parent, teacher, librarian, person who has to interact with children on a daily basis, the dollar section is for you. If you like to throw parties very often, or just someone who likes to decorate things, or just someone who likes things, the dollar section is for you.

Now go forth and buy things. But also Shop Small.

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Jim Siergey: Wham, Bam–Thank You, Spam!

October 21st, 2018

I saw you in my spam folder and I just knew you were the one for me.

You misspelled words in the cutest way and your sentence structure would need an extra blackboard in order to be parsed. How cool! I really go for a non-conformist gal and you seem to fill the bill.

Oh, the promises you make! They were enough to make my libido explode. The inches, the girth, the stamina—OMG, girl, you make me so hot.

If you really know only a fraction of those secrets you mention, they’d be enough for me. I blush just thinking about it.

It’s not just your erotic nature that enthralls me but you seem to be a well-rounded woman and I don’t mean that in the physical sense (but I haven’t seen you so maybe you are, which would not be a deal breaker with me. You seem to be a lot of woman whether you are actually a lot of woman or not, if you know what I mean) but in all your other interests.

youvegotmailhanks

Hey, you’ve got spam…

 

Do you really have a plan to lower my mortgage payments? That sounds great as do your real estate and financial planning ideas . Your knowledge of vitamin usage and other health ideas just knock me out. Plus, you are familiar with royalty! How did you become friends with a Nigerian prince?

You sound absolutely fascinating!

I never really knew what was meant by spam. I knew it couldn’t be that canned pork-like meat because what would that have to do with computers? Since I found you in my spam folder I think I now know what spam stands for!

Special People And Marvels. S-P-A-M. You, dear lady, appear to be both. Although we’ve never met and, in fact, this is our first communication, I have a special sense and I sense you are special.

I saw you in my spam folder. As they say in the movies, this is a “cute meet “. What a story we can tell our children and grandchildren.

Oops! I’m jumping the gun, aren’t I? But you can tame me from being premature, can’t you? It is one of your claims.

So, dear Spammy (See, I’ve got a special name of endearment for you already) please respond to my email as soon as you can. I can’t wait to meet you.

Just think—in my folder of spam I have found a filet mignon. Yum!

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Madame Satan

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Randolph Street: In The Street

October 17th, 2018

 

jon randolph no tifsFight the power…

 

 

jonfishing4Merchant Man…

 

jononroad3Bad boys…

 

jonr1Next year–I swear…

All photos © Jon Randolph

jonrandolph.com

 

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Letter From Milo: Nature Not Nurture

October 15th, 2018
Some people inherit great wealth. A select group of inbred Europeans inherit noble titles and vast estates. Some people inherit beauty, brains or great physical skills. Hair color, eye color, freckles, height, weight, even some diseases are embedded in the DNA. Every generation inherits something from the previous generation.

 

In my case, I inherited the Bum Gene.

 

The Bum Gene, as my similarly afflicted friend, Bruce Diksas, explains it, is the component in the DNA that compels a person to make stupid choices, opting for instant gratification over delayed satisfaction. Faced with a choice between a brief moment of pleasure or doing something constructive, a person with the Bum Gene will choose fleeting pleasure, every time. Faced with a choice between being a productive member of society or giving in to your worst instincts, the Bum Gene-afflicted will always opt for the latter, no matter the consequences. In Aesop‘s fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper, the grasshopper was the one with the Bum Gene.

 

My father used to enjoy the old Rip ‘n Roar. He drank, smoked, gambled, ate red meat, cursed freely and, for all I know, had impure thoughts. If the stories I heard are true, so did my grandfather. And I, to borrow a line from Hank Williams, Jr., am carrying on the family tradition.

 

I started smoking at about the age of 13. I remember my first drag from a cigarette very clearly. It happened in Jefferson Park, in Gary, Indiana. There was an older kid, maybe 15, named Pete, who offered me a puff from his smoke. It was an unfiltered Lucky Strike and he handed it to me with the admonition, “Don’t niggerlip it.”

 

I took a drag, held it in my mouth, then quickly blew it out.

 

“No, man, that’s not how you do it,” Pete told me. “You gotta suck it into your lungs. Like this.”

 

Pete showed me how to inhale. and in a moment I was hacking, couching and gagging, while Pete was laughing his ass off. It tasted terrible, burned my throat and made my eyes water. Within a week I was a confirmed smoker.

 

I started drinking a couple of years later, along with a few of my buddies who had also inherited the Bum Gene. It’s funny how people with that particular gene seem to find each other. Anyway, since the drinking age in my town was 21, we had to find older people to buy our booze for us. Then we heard about Mr. Lucky’s.

 

Mr. Lucky’s was a bar and liquor store in Midtown, which was the black section of Gary. It was rumored that Mr. Lucky’s would sell booze to anyone of any age. Since we were paying a premium to obtain alcohol from older folks, who sometimes marked up our purchases 100 percent, we made the fiduciary decision to try Mr. Lucky’s. Since I looked the oldest, easily passing for 17 or 18, I was chosen to make the buy.

 

There was a large black man behind the counter when I walked in. He smiled when he saw me and asked, “What can I do for you, boy?”

 

“I’d like two sixpacks of Blatz and a pint of cherry vodka, please.”

 

“You 21?”

 

“Yes sir.”

 

“Any ID?”

 

“Darn, I left my wallet in my work clothes, in my locker, at work.”

 

“You a workin’ man, are you?”

 

“Uh huh.”

 

The man regarded me suspiciously for a moment, then said, “Next time bring your ID. We can’t be breaking no laws here.”

 

“Sure, no problem. Oh, and can I get a pack of Lucky Strikes, too?”

 

When I started college, what do you think was the first thing on my agenda? Did I spend my time productively, buying books, sharpening pencils, scoping out my professors, figuring out where the library was? No! My first day at college was spent cruising the local liquor stores, trying to find one that would sell booze to my thirsty, underage ass.

 

As the years went by I went along my merry way. I was a child of my times, subject to the illicit enthusiasms of my age. I smoked, drank, toked and joked my way through life. The Bum Gene would not be denied.

 

If there was a party, I was in the middle of it. If there was a card game I had a seat at the table. If there was a joint being passed, it usually passed in my direction. If there was a way to avoid honest work, I found it, most of the time.

 

Don’t get me wrong. A lot of people inherit the Bum Gene and still succeed in life. Ulysses Grant was a drunkard. Bill Clinton was a serial womanizer. Dostoevski was a degenerate gambler. Keith Richards, well, let’s just say that he must have inherited Bum Genes from both sides of his family.

 

In my opinion, the main problem with the Bum Gene is that no matter how much you personally enjoy the condition, the last thing you want to do is pass it down to your children. I’ve got two lovely daughters and both of them seem to have avoided their father’s propensity for the high life, or, more properly, the low life. They are two hard-working, responsible young ladies. I’m very proud of them. But if I ever catch them with a pack of Lucky Strikes…
Editor’s Note: Still haven’t purchased Milo Samardzija’s masterpiece, “Schoolboy“? Whaddya waiting For?
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Jim Siergey: Madame Satan

October 14th, 2018

Well, I’m back at work watching the movies you don’t have to watch and telling you about them.

Today’s selection is a curious little oddity from 1930 entitled Madam Satan. Odd and curious are two very good adjectives to use to describe this celluloid creation. Even curiouser, this oddity was directed by none other than Hollywood legend Cecil B. DeMille.

The story is basically a marriage-on-the-rocks melodrama that occasionally gets interrupted by song and dance numbers and comedic bits.

And what dance numbers! They’re not quite up to the level of Busby Berkeley’s phantasmagorias but they’re only a few steps behind.

The main characters are Reginald Denny as an unfaithful dreck of a socialite husband with Kay Johnson as his suffering socialite wife. The dreck’s buddy, Jimmy, is played by the wonderful Roland Young.

The movie can get pretty stiff at times but it comes to life every time Roland is in a scene. Mr. Young is best identified as the title character in the successful series of Topper films that began later in that decade. Leo G. Carroll, who conveniently bore quite a resemblance to Roland Young played Topper in the TV series that followed in the 1950s.

Also in the flick is a character named Trixie (yeah, she’s the dreck’s dalliance) played by Lillian Roth. I’m not familiar with Ms. Roth but she came off as a combination of Rosie Perez and Madeline Kahn. She tended to play a little bit over the top but it balanced out the somnambulant approach of the lead, Ms. Johnson aka Madam Satan.

MadamSatanLobby

Don’t worry–it’s only a movie…

 

 

There’s a bunch of nonsense with mistaken identities and misinterpretations that were anything but cleverly written. Fortunately, a song or a dance would pop in to ease the embarrassment. Finally, at the end of the picture is a zeppelin!

Yes, up a stairway to a zeppelin we are led.

Jimmy (Roland Young) throws a huge masquerade ball aboard his tethered zeppelin. This is where wifey adopts a French accent and an alluring costume as the mysterious Madam Satan, in order to woo her husband back from the hands of the hussy Trixie, adorned in ostentatious peacock feathers.

Along with the party goers the camera sweeps us into the zeppelin, its interior décor reminiscent of Flash Gordon space ships, up and down staircases filled with festooned frolicers to a ballroom where we are treated to a big dance number with lots of ladies clad as cats. Later there is an extravagantly costumed and machine-like dance number that appears to be a salute to electricity.

That performance is a harbinger of things to come as a sudden electrical storm untethers the zeppelin and it is carried away by the raging winds. Oh, the humanity! There is some good matte work in the scenes where people are parachuting out of the drifting dirigible and fluttering away in the sky.

This exciting episode serves as a pre-climax as the film ends about where it began, except now it’s not a marriage-on-the-rocks but merely a not-so-happily-married couple, mainly because the dreck of a husband is a real drip. A total L7, know what I mean?

There is a lot of Art Déco design in this movie and some alluring and elaborate costumery along with lots of shots of cuties getting close ups and the aforementioned BB-like dance routines as well as a few chuckles along the way but it’s mostly a cornball fest. However, it’s a Cecil B. DeMille cornball fest!

So, if that sounds like something in which you’d like to steep your biocular teabag, then go for it. At the very least, you’ll have Roland Young to entertain you.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was New Blue

 

 

 

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Randolph Street: Jumpin’ Jagger

October 10th, 2018

 

 

 

mickjagger1jonThe year was 1972….

 

mickjagger2jon

The place was the Chicago Stadium….

mickjagger3jon

And The Third City was there….

 

All photos © Jon Randolph

jonrandolph.com

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